In response to the massacre in Orlando, FL—reported as the deadliest mass shooting in U.S. History in which 49 people were murdered and 53 people were wounded—and the daily reported abuses suffered by LGBTQI Americans at the hands of the hateful and the misguided, my heart is heavy with so many reactions.
I am heartbroken for the wounded, the murdered, the families, and the community torn apart in chaos.
I am angry that I must witness this kind of violent hatred in my lifetime—a generation that like so many before was full of the promise of unity, tolerance, and progress.
I am weary because this is not new and I am not surprised. I should be. This should be shocking and unheard of, but this kind of horror is commonplace in our country where the spread of hate is protected more than the human beings simply existing in its wake.
I am also afraid. As a counselor-in-training, my principally promoted philosophy is that of living authentically—whatever that may mean to any particular individual. However, any time I express my identity and my support for my LGBTQI family, I am painting a target on my back. Even at events and locales that we as a community have created for ourselves in an attempt at (emotional and physical) safety, we are sought out, targeted, persecuted, and violently attacked. We have been disillusioned by recent political victories into the notion of societal equality.
We are not safe. We were never safe. They are murdering us.
Then they call us so radicalized for being forced to bravely stand out and proud and in protest of our oppression. They call it "shoving it in their faces." But to declare one’s existence in the face of threat is not an act one can commit quietly. We wear our rainbows, march in our parades, patronize our affirming establishments, and express intimacy in public—not in some grandiose rebellion against that which is 'wholesome' and 'normed,' as so many would portray us as doing—but instead, we live our lives as ourselves, in various states of sublime and bold, amended with the screaming, sobbing, sweating declaration that perpetuating the heteronormativity of this culture is strangling us. We are being legally evicted from our homes, fired from our jobs, and denied services we have worked so hard to earn and all some can talk about is how our ‘agenda’ ruined television for them with our mere representation. We are being murdered in the streets and all some can express is their dissent that our President declared June to be LGBT Pride Month, because, apparently, our blood in your gutters has not earned us a month of our own.
These hate crimes committed against us are domestic terrorism in every definition of the term—attacks designed strategically to force millions of people underground, out of society, because there are those who would rather us atrophy in the darkness than sit comfortably with the idea, the fact, that we are human beings living under the same sun. This is a civil rights issue. This is a human rights issue. Every time an atrocity like this happens on our soil we are faced with a choice as a nation: What are we going to do about this to prevent it from happening again? How are we going to protect our citizens? But, as a nation, we tend to answer with averted eyes.
When bigots are among members of the queer community, they fear for the preservation of their masculinity. When members of the queer community are in the presence of bigots, we fear for our lives.
We are Matthew Shepard. We are Stonewall. We are Pulse.